Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Editorial | Finding the PNP

Published:Sunday | September 4, 2016 | 9:00 AM

There is little doubt that the People's National Party (PNP) would welcome a strong dose of public confidence which, in the circumstances, will be hard to find and probably undeserved. For, since it lost the government in February, the PNP has more resembled the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) during the era of Edward Seaga, with its constant threat of implosion.

There, for instance, have been the calls for a renewal in the party, including open demands by some factions of the PNP for the departure, after a decade, of its president, Portia Simpson Miller, under whose leadership, it is felt, the PNP has not only lost its core values but the art of winning elections. Indeed, Karl Blythe, diminished by scandal and dispatched to nether places, has improbably re-emerged to have an implausible go at the leadership. He made the bid after a more credible challenger, Peter Bunting, placed his ambitions on hold.

Then there is the matter of the report by the treasurer, Norman Horne, to the party's National Executive Committee (NEC), in which he complained about a disjointed approach to fundraising, which negatively impacted the PNP's position to finance is campaign.

Said Mr Horne: "On numerous occasions, information received by the treasury from the potential donors was that contributions had already been made to senior party members for the benefit of the party. However, only a few members reported or accounted in full, or even in part, for the receipt of these donations to the treasury or the party executive."

 

Davies' public grievance

 

Further, there is the public grievance by the former construction minister, Omar Davies, against the party's general secretary, Paul Burke, for purported remarks at an NEC meeting suggesting kick-backs from Chinese companies, in which Dr Davies felt he was implicated, and about which, interpreted Dr Davies, Mr Burke's major concern was that the PNP didn't get a share.

The obvious conclusion from all of this is that the PNP has lost its way. Assigning its integrity commission to probe the campaign contribution allegations can contribute to a course correction, but will be insufficient. The PNP is in need of deep introspection, to determine and (re)assert its core values and reinterpret, for the times, its ideology, insofar that it believes such things matter.

In that respect, the so-called Norman Manley Legacy Project, announced by the party on Friday, and to be led by the PNP's most thoughtful current leader, is a potential useful starting point. Norman Manley, the party's founder, was a Fabian socialist. But more important, he perceived the PNP as a big-tent national movement under which big ideas resided and state power was merely to accomplish good for all. Over nearly a quarter century the PNP has morphed into an effective election-winning machinery, but appeared to have misplaced that capacity for thoughtful introspection and a remembrance of, though evolved, foundation values, which is what tends to sustain institutions during times of crises. Which is what the PNP now faces.

Perhaps the most important declared aim of the legacy project is to have the PNP seen as an "organisation of integrity, ... doing the right thing at all times in pursuit of servicing the best interest of ... the Jamaican people".

Getting to this point will require open and inclusive dialogue and, we believe, personnel changes. The party has to appreciate, too, that declarations are not of themselves action.